With women’s lives improving in recent years economically, politically and socially, why are we not also able to talk freely about our periods? It’s a normal part of life for most women, almost half of the population. In fact, instead of it being embarrassing or a burden, we can shift our perspective to see it as a strength of womanhood.
Ever notice how some days you have extra energy, motivation to tidy and clean, and a sudden itch to check things off your to-do list? Or, on other days during the month, you might feel better able to concentrate and focus, with a greater capacity for taking stock emotionally.
Menstruation and the monthly rise and fall of hormones offer a unique tool that women can take advantage of to enhance psychological wellbeing, productivity, and work-life balance. The trick? Figuring out how to make it work for you.
How to be productive every week of your cycle
If, like many women, you already keep track of your period, you’re in a great position to take advantage of hormone shifts throughout the month. Understanding your own cycle means you’re generally aware of when you’re likely to next ovulate and when your next period will start and finish, based on data from your previous cycles. There are apps that will help you estimate these windows, if you have a regular cycle.
Using this information, you can deliberately schedule specific tasks on certain days during the month. Maybe you’re organizing an event where you’ll need loads of social energy, or have to meet with a client who is especially grouchy. Perhaps you need to schedule visits to the dentist for the kids, or plan a trip to see family who can be emotionally taxing. Whatever’s on your plate, there’s likely a preferred time of the month to pencil these in based on your unique hormonal situation.
For most people who menstruate, there are four distinct shifts each month: pre-ovulation, post-ovulation, menstruation, post-period.
Ovulation – Play and pleasure
During your pre-ovulation phase, your estrogen levels are increasing again, which can mean more energy, a higher libido, more cervical mucus, a heightened sense of smell, clearer thinking, and enhanced coordination.
Good things to do in this phase:
- Schedule any elective exams or presentations – you’ll be on fire!
- Book a romantic weekend away, schedule a party and try something new – take advantage of your libido during this phase!
- Get to work on a new creative project – pick up your paintbrush, pencils, or get to gardening. Use the notes you jotted down from week two of your cycle!
- Bake, cook, and generally make a bunch of food in advance so you can eat well when you’re less inclined to cook.
- Clear out your closet, desk drawer, guest room, or garage – stockpile donations and take them to the thrift store!
- Negotiate a pay raise – seriously, your sense of self worth and your negotiating skills are at their peak this week!
If you’re experiencing symptoms such as breast tenderness, water retention, headaches, and weight gain, it may signal a hormonal imbalance. Talk to a health provider, especially if you’re concerned about fertility.
Post-Ovulation – Sensitivity as Strength
During this week of your cycle, your estrogen levels decline while your progesterone levels continue increasing (helping to maintain the lining of the womb in case of embryo fertilization and implantation) until they suddenly drop off (assuming you don’t become pregnant). This combination of rapid hormone shifts (known as the luteal phase) can have some peculiar effects, including raising your body temperature.
This shift in hormones also affects levels of serotonin, your feel-good hormone. Yes, you’re more sensitive during this phase but it is also a fantastic time to tap into your intuition. If you find your patience wearing thin and your anger rising, don’t just write off these feelings. Instead, take a step back and consider what it is that’s getting you riled up. Maybe you’ve good reason to be annoyed. The trick, though, is to take note of how you feel but put off acting on it until you’re a little calmer and clearer next week.
At this time of the month, you may also find that your dreams become more vivid. If you’re a writer, artist, musician, or other type of creative professional, use this time to gather inspiration from your subconscious!
By the end of this week, your body will start to cool down as hormones become balanced again.
Good things to do in this phase:
- Hunker down and get some reading done! If you’ve been trying to finish a book for weeks, now’s the time.
- Schedule some snuggles with loved ones – family movie night, anyone?
- Have a mini meditation/creative retreat at home – recharge, reflect, work through nagging emotional problems, or jot down thoughts for a new song, sculpture, or short story.
- Nest and catch up on those smaller, niggling administrative tasks at home that require quiet focus and care.
- Practice yoga or other type of restorative exercise.
Menstruation – Care and Creativity
If ovulation isn’t followed by fertilization and implantation of an embryo, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, causing your body to shed the lining of the uterus and begin the cycle again.
Happily, many people experience a sense of calm, peace, relief, and even invigoration during this week of their cycle. This is because hormones are low and steady. You may feel more connected to nature during this time, and, as you get through the week, you may find some creative and libidinous energy bubbling up inside.
Good things to plan for this week:
- Start your week out slow with some downtime to yourself for the first day or so.
- As you start to gain energy, this is a good time to tackle a tricky family or work dilemma. If you need to have a tough conversation with your kids, or your boss, do it this week while you’re feeling communicative, calm, and creative.
- Enjoy your libido! – Your orgasms may be more intense this week, so take advantage!
- Schedule some vigorous exercise for your last, lightest day of bleeding as your energy levels increase.
Post-Period – Reconnecting and Recuperating
Just after you’re done bleeding, your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest levels all cycle. Interestingly, while this should translate to low energy and low libido, many people report feeling perky during this week as they sleep better and reconnect with loved ones.
As your libido may be low at this time, it’s a great week for bonding with your partner(s) in other ways, with the anticipation of great sex in a few days or next week. This is also a good week for taking proper stock of your emotions as your judgement isn’t clouded by your hormones, estrogen or progesterone.
Good things to do this week:
- Schedule a couple’s massage or family activity
- Journal, make a vision board, or talk through a big decision with your partner.
- Make big decisions – take the leap over purchasing, career, or general life plans, while your mind is clear and calm.
Hormones cycle throughout the month, affecting your energy levels, nutritional needs, sex drive, cognitive state, and so forth. For some people, these cycles are quite predictable, which is great for planning and scheduling so as to maximize productivity and happiness.